NBA rumors: NBA postpones draft lottery and combine

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When it comes to restarting play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he'll follow the guidance of the Center for Disease Control and independent health advisers. And the one thing these health experts agree on is that testing is the key to everything. There needs to be a fast, simple and reliable test. There also must be enough available public testing to avoid backlash toward the NBA for acquiring and using kits. The league expects it will need approximately 15,000 tests, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Teams were sent a memo Thursday night advising not to arrange coronavirus tests for asymptomatic players and staff.
Some of the work to determine essential personnel started weeks ago, as organizations braced for the likelihood of holding games without fans. In a memo to teams on March 7, the NBA said to "minimize the number of staff traveling with the team to essential individuals only." This scenario would go even further. Consultation with head coaches and executives led to the reduction to 28 people per team: 15 active roster spots (excluding two-way players), the head coach, three assistant coaches, three trainers/physical therapists, a strength coach, an equipment manager, a team logistics coordinator, a front-office representative, a public-relations official and a security official. The typical team travel size ranges from 40 to 50 people, growing to 75 or more in the postseason.
To be clear: This would require unprecedented work in a tight and uncertain time frame to construct the NBA's path back to live games. But this is an unprecedented situation. And if the NBA wants to come back this season, this might be its best bet. For now, the NBA does not have a return-to-play plan and remains vague by design, sources said. There are too many questions that remain without answers.
“The thing I keep hearing is the whole competitive advantage idea,” said one player on a team that could resume individual workouts next week. “If we open up half the teams’ facilities when it’s safe, what’s a team like Brooklyn going to do? That’s a question because I certainly have no idea what that looks like.” According to the league’s tracking of state-by-state government orders related to the virus, the Suns, Nuggets, Magic, Hawks, Pacers, Timberwolves, Hornets, Cavaliers, Thunder, 76ers, Grizzlies, Rockets, Mavericks, Spurs, and Jazz all live in states where stay-at-home orders will expire on or before May 8.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and the team’s legal counsel lobbied Los Angeles health officials for help in getting the practice facility open in El Segundo, Calif., a source confirmed to The Athletic (first reported by ESPN). And the Lakers are hardly alone when it comes to lobbying efforts. Sources say all four of the league’s California teams (Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Kings) are hoping to convince Governor Gavin Newsom to include them in “Stage 2” of his reopening plan, perhaps with the help of the mayors in their respective cities. As Newsom detailed via Twitter on Tuesday, that stage would include “gradually reopening some lower-risk workplaces with adaptations.”
As of now, no player is allowed into his team’s facility or some other gym to work out. Development staffers are not supposed to be working with the players. If a player has a private gym at home, great. Many have said they do not. Others, according to multiple sources, are practicing secretly on their own at gyms that are supposed to be closed. “It’s just safer to have them in our gym, instead of random gyms all over the place,” said one assistant coach from a contending team.
Amid the pandemic, sources say, fan-less games could rely on robotic cameras with closer, innovative angles of the action. Television play-by-play and game analysts could call the games from remote locations. Discussions have included teams keeping essential personnel in the range of 30 to 35 -- including players -- on site.
Silver has publicly and privately insisted he couldn't abide his league gobbling up tests to resume a basketball season if the general public and medical professionals are without mass access to tests. Once the NBA shared its guidelines with teams on protocols for bringing players into the facility for workouts, it prohibited the use of tests on players unless they were showing Covid-19 symptoms, sources said.
Sam Presti, Thunder Executive Vice President & General Manager, spoke with media members via video conference call on a range of subjects including the NBA’s suspended season, the team’s performance in 2019-20, and business for the organization to complete if and when this season (or next) resumes. He answered several questions but (unsurprisingly) could not provide much in the way of concrete plans or expectations from his vantage.
On the Thunder’s plans for resuming activities as permitted by state and local governments: “The league has said May 8th is the target date. But as we’ve seen, things are changing day by day. I don’t think we’re committed to that date. The league has given teams flexibility for what’s best for them. We’re gonna be thorough in how we look at it... The players have been great. They have zoom calls. I’ve been inspired by how our organization has inspired each other and leaned on each other… We don’t know when we’re coming back or if we’re coming back.“
On the Thunder working together with the rest of the NBA toward an eventual, if “imperfect”, return to play: “As one of 30 (NBA teams), even though we’re competing against other organizations, this is not the time for that. When we return, even if it’s next season, we are experiencing it together. There are bigger things at play here. My hope here is that we figure out how to get through this virus and keep people safe. Then we can think about basketball... Basketball is so small relative to everything we’re facing right now... (You can’t) pretend you have the facts that you don’t have… We’re so far into hypotheticals and theories at this point, I’m not sure the work is productive.”
Mike Finger: RC Buford says he just got off call with NBA team presidents. "Every intention is to return to play."
Tim Reynolds: RC Buford says the Spurs "want to do what's right for the league and for the fans" when it comes to resuming the season. Further, Buford says team presidents met today and that the consensus remains that teams want to play.
Paul Garcia: RC Buford says the front office continues to prepare for the draft and offseason, but with no target dates. He says any plans or dates regarding the future for the team will be set by the league.
RJ Marquez: #Spurs RC Buford on conference call asked about employee's pay or possible furloughs during #COVID19 pandemic: "We took care of staff through the end of the season. We have not made any staffing changes at this time." #KSATsports #KSATnews #NBA
Tom Orsborn: In a video conference with local reporters, #Spurs CEO R.C. Buford said the club hasn't had to make any staff changes, furloughs, layoffs, pay reductions, etc., during the layoff. But he added, "We will review the reality of the situation as we go on."
LeBron James: Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel season??? That’s absolutely not true. Nobody I know saying anything like that. As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything. 👑
NBA team executives and players’ agents spoke to CNBC in recent weeks about the challenges in resuming play. They said team owners are concerned with liability issues and are conflicted about whether or not to give up on the current season. The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity as they aren’t authorized to discuss league matters publicly. Billions of dollars are on the line if the NBA can’t rescue its season. NBA teams split the roughly $2 billion per year in national TV money the NBA receives from ESPN and Turner Sports. But clubs also gain revenue from local media deals with Regional Sports Networks.
“What [owners] are saying is, ’If we return, where is the revenue that is going to justify the additional cost of returning?” one team executive said. “They are looking at the cost side versus the revenue side. What revenue comes in now?” Also, NBA clubs have many limited partners who are taking losses. “These owners aren’t just sitting there with an ATM that’s printing more than ever before,” said Andy Dolich, the Memphis Grizzlies former president of business operations. “Some of them are looking at vast losses outside of just their basketball team.”
Despite all the signals that it will be nearly impossible to rescue the rest of the NBA season, a league spokesperson told CNBC the league is still working on plans to resume. “It is the responsibility of the league office to explore all options for a return to play this season,” the spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. “We owe that to our fans, teams, players, partners and all who love the game. While our top priority remains everyone’s health and well-being, we continue to evaluate all options to finish this season. At the same time, we are intensely focused on addressing the potential impact of Covid-19 on the 2020-21 season.”
With so much uncertainty still surrounding coronavirus, agents are also privately calling on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to cancel the remainder of the season. “I’m surprised because [Silver] always errs on the side of caution and doing what’s right,” said one agent, who added he felt Silver would have decided to cancel by now.
Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem delivered food Wednesday to two area hospitals and a fire station that hold a personal connection to him, including one that helped save his life. Haslem said he wanted to give back to the first responders in the coronavirus pandemic at the hospital in which the Miami native was born, the hospital that helped save his life when he had blood clots in 2010, and the fire station next to the community college where his father played semi pro basketball.
"Everybody knows that I had a run in with blood clots years ago, could have lost my life," the power forward said, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, during a visit to Memorial Hospital West. "Blood clot was on the way to my heart, and once it gets to your heart, if anybody knows about the medical side of things, that's it. So I was close to losing my life, came here, they got me back. And they pretty much saved my life. "Without you guys, a lot of people say they wouldn't be here. But without you guys, I literally wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have the opportunity to do what I'm doing right now."
JD Shaw: The Pistons have partnered with Nets owner Joe Tsai to deliver 350,000 KN95 masks and 100,000 medical goggles to the city of Detroit. The masks and goggles will be distributed to testing centers, homeless shelters and workers in the transportation and police departments.
But the B.League got in exactly one weekend of games — games are played back to back on Saturdays and Sundays — on March 14 and 15, before the season was canceled for good on March 27, amid several players and at least one referee testing positive for COVID-19, and some players, many American, refusing to play any more games. “It almost seemed like they wanted to wait,” Hinkle said. “There was so much pressure at the time to make sure the Olympics went on (the 2020 Summer Olympics, scheduled for this summer in Tokyo, were postponed late last month until 2021). SoftBank (a telecommunications company which has invested heavily in the league since its inception in 2016) was their biggest sponsor and they had already paid for all the games. It was a combination of bad things going in the same direction.”
“The translations can be tough,” Kelly, who was in second season in Japan, said via phone last week. “But the people are incredibly kind and welcoming. The food is great. My dad came out there the first year and he didn’t realize that right near my apartment, not that I was eating there, but there’s a Krispy Kreme there. Tokyo’s an incredible city. It’s a beautiful place with a lot of history.” Testing for COVID-19 was not mandatory in Japan. The country had taken the position of other nations that it would save its tests for those who showed the most acute symptoms of the illness, and try to keep those people in clusters so that they would not spread the virus. The country had quarantined a cruise ship in Yokohama in which more than 700 persons who’d been aboard ultimately tested positive for COVID-19, but that one hotspot accounted for a huge portion of the country’s total positives.
“I understand the risk,” Summers said. “I don’t think it’s worth it. I don’t think it’s worth it right now. Of course, we all want see if LeBron and A.D. and those guys are gonna win a Finals. Or if (Giannis) Antetokounmpo is finally going to get to the Finals in the east without LeBron or Kawhi (Leonard) over there stopping him. There’s so many basketball lovers that’s hurting right now. But more importantly, there’s so many people dying.” Said Kelly: “I can’t speak for the NBA or any other league, but it’s a tough thing to make happen, unless you can put things in a bubble. Even if you go out and play, if players are constantly concerned about their health and safety, are you putting out a great product? That was very important to them – not just ‘is it safe?,’ but do players think and feel that it isn’t safe? And if they don’t, it isn’t safe.”
Pacers center Myles Turner knows firsthand the impact of COVID-19. Not long after the NBA suspended its season on March 11, Turner's father David tested positive for the virus. The elder Turner was eventually admitted to a hospital in the Dallas area for a number of days, isolated from the rest of his family. Thankfully, David Turner's condition eventually improved, allowing him to be discharged and return home.
"His recovery process took a while," Myles Turner told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday. "He was on oxygen for a little bit. He's better now, but it was definitely scary at the time." Turner's father is well known to many Pacers fans. He travels from Dallas to Indianapolis to attend almost every home game, sitting in the lower bowl of Bankers Life Fieldhouse across the court from the Pacers' bench. His animated reactions to big plays have earned him some TV time over the years.
Turner is hopeful that the NBA can resume at some point this season. The Pacers were well on their way to their fifth straight playoff appearance, a streak that started Turner's rookie season. Indiana has not advanced past the first round over that span, but Turner said he was "optimistic" that this team was equipped to make a deep run. "I most definitely want to play," Turner said. "That's just the competitor in me and I think we started to get some good leverage towards the end of the season."
The expenses are detailed in a state contract The Bee obtained after filing a request under the California Public Records Act with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services. The contract — signed quietly and without public announcement — now raises questions about the expenditure of taxpayer money to enrich an NBA franchise that paid its top player Harrison Barnes $24.1 million in 2019. The Kings are owned by a wealthy group of investors that includes Ranadivé, a software multi-millionaire.
Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Cal OES, said Friday there was no intent to deceive the public about the contract between the Kings and the state. The arrangement with the Kings “is consistent with what’s being done at the other sites,” Ferguson said. “We are paying a consistent rate at all the alternative (hospital) sites.” He added that the Kings have made available the team’s old practice facility, a separate building next to Sleep Train, at no charge.
Myles Turner’s father, David, contracted COVID-19 soon after the league suspended operations after the Pacers’ March 10 home game. David Turner fell ill about a week before his son’s 24th birthday — March 24 — but was fortunate to avoid the fate of so many others who weren’t treated or tested immediately. In fact, his first visit to the hospital led to an incorrect H1N1 diagnosis, a flu strain.
“It was a rough patch for a couple weeks,” Turner said. “They said they think he actually contracted it in Indiana. He caught it early before all the frenzy started to happen. Once he got it, he had a whole bunch of symptoms, fever, chills, pneumonia. Had to get him to the hospital. They said he had the H1N1, sent him back home, then he started feeling worse, they sent him to a different hospital, they tested him right away. They said he had corona.”
The medical community in Japan is moving toward a consensus that holding next year’s Tokyo Olympics may hinge on finding a coronavirus vaccine. Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura said in a video media conference on Tuesday that the Olympics were possible only if the infections were under control, not only in Japan, but globally.
Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister and now president of the organizing committee, told the newspaper Nikkan Sports there would be no more delays if the games can’t be held in 2021. “No, in that situation, it will be canceled,” he said. “In the past, when there were such problems, like wartime, it has been canceled. This time, we are fighting an invisible enemy.” Mori added: “This is a gamble for mankind. If the world triumphs over the virus and we can hold the Olympics, then our games will be so many times more valuable than any past Olympics.”
When it comes to reading the tea leaves and trying to decipher a rough timetable for a return to business as normal, Bismack Biyombo is just as unsure as everybody else. The vice president on the NBAPA’s executive board can’t predict it either.
“What do I think will happen this year?” the Hornets center said in a chat with The Athletic last week. “I think it’s hard to say based on the situation that we are in. If anybody comes out and says, ‘Well, I think the league will come back around this time,’ I honestly think it’s a lie. Just because the first thing is to allow the government to control this virus. Once they can control it and we have some kind of care, some kind of vaccine or whatever that is, then we can talk about the next phase, which is when can we get back to playing basketball again?”
Many questions and hurdles have to be cleared first, though. “I think the focus right now is just looking at how can the players be taken care of and how can we take care of everybody, from the owners to the players because this is a partnership,” Biyombo said. “At the end of the day we signed up for a partnership and we all have to wait to see what happens next. But I’m hopeful we get to play again this season. Even if this season is going to be canceled, hopefully, we have some kind of playoffs so that the fans can get to enjoy it because the fans need sports."
“Even for guys that are not in it, you look forward to the playoffs. Whether you are in or out, you look forward to the playoffs. It’s a different ball game. It brings the best out of people and the attention to detail is different, when people are playing for something. So I hope we can all get back to our normal life and being able to play basketball.”
The Lakers have been in contact with the Los Angeles mayor's office to discuss the possibility of opening their practice facility for players before the current shelter-at-home order for L.A. residents expires on May 15, sources close to the matter told ESPN. The NBA announced Monday it will allow players to return to team facilities for voluntary workouts starting May 8. The Lakers, sources said, organized a conference call on Monday with their players to detail what the safety measures will be when the time comes for their doors to open -- be it May 15 or sooner.
Anyone the Lakers players will encounter at the practice facility will be required to wear a mask and gloves, and the designated rebounder for each player will wear gloves and sterilized sneakers, sources said. The approach, sources said, is to err on the side of caution, even if it might seem like the rigid circumstances go a bit overboard.
Dave McMenamin: The Lakers detailed what workouts will look like when the practice facility re-opens on a conference call with players Monday, sources told ESPN: temperatures taken in the parking lot, strict time schedules and even rebounders wearing gloves.
Biyombo, with NBA earnings of more than $75 million, stresses charity and sharing hope. As part of his foundation’s effort to improve medical care in the Congo, he recently shipped $1 million in supplies to his native country. Largely protective gear for doctors and nurses, including Hazardous Material suits equipped with oxygen tanks. But also incubators for the newborn and wheelchairs for the infirm.
While playing for Minas Tênis Clube in Brazil as the league’s top scorer at 20.1 points per game, Leandro Barbosa learned on March 21 that he had tested positive for Covid-19 two days earlier in Belo Horizonte. Talita Rocca, his wife, was 38 weeks pregnant and due to give birth on March 26 in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, where the couple live full time.
Amid soon-to-be-confirmed fears that Rocca, a model, had also contracted the virus, her doctors decided, for the baby’s safety, that labor would be induced immediately — with Barbosa barred from the hospital. Rocca’s mother, Geli, took Barbosa’s place in the delivery room. He watched as much of the March 22 birth of Isabela Rocca Barbosa as possible on FaceTime.
Bill Kennedy was part of the referee crew that worked the Detroit-Philadelphia game, which as of right now is the last NBA game played this 2019-20 season. League commissioner Adam Silver suspended play that same night March 11 after Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. “At that time, we went back to the hotel at the airport Marriott and we saw the press release that Adam released,” said Kennedy, a Phoenix native and 22-year NBA referee veteran. “We got an email from (NBA head of referee development and training) Monty McCutchen to get home as quickly as we could.”
After the Atlanta Hawks were unwilling to immediately reopen the franchise's practice facility for players to return for limited workouts, the NBA sent a memo to teams pushing back its reopening date to May 8. The league had been planning to reopen facilities beginning with the Hawks, because of the state of Georgia had been among the first states loosen stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are going to wait and see what happens in the state over the couple weeks," Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk told ESPN. "If there's a positive response, we'll slowly open up. If it's a negative response, we'll make sure our staff and players remain healthy."
Shams Charania: The NBA has informed its franchises that it is targeting no earlier than May 8 for any use of team's practice facility, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The NBA will continue to monitor coronavirus pandemic with its timings.
Shams Charania: NBA has informed its teams of this reality in a memo, per sources: “It is not possible or appropriate in the current public health context to regularly test all players and staff for COVID-19.” These protocols may be modified.
Jonathan Feigen: NBA announces it plans to modify rules to reopen team practice facilities no sooner than May 8 in states and cities where permissible. Gov. Abbott to announce plans at 2:30 for a partial reopening in Texas, which could apply to Rockets, Mavs and Spurs use of training facilities.
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBA has received significant pushback from teams about idea of re-opening practice facilities in selected states and municipalities, team officials tell ESPN. Competive balance hasn't been issue -- player/staff safety has. Teams are still awaiting a more detailed NBA plan today.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Despite pushback among many franchises, there are still other teams embracing idea of re-opening facilities, believing that a clean, safe and monitored team environment is needed now to keep players from potentially searching out less safe gymnasium environments to stay in shape.
Shams Charania: Sources: When NBA’s facilities open as soon as May 8, players must wear facemasks at all times, except when in physical activity; staffers working with players must wear gloves; physical distancing of at least 12 feet.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Hawks President of Basketball Operations/GM Travis Schlenk tells ESPN that Hawks won’t be opening team facility to players Friday. “We are going to wait and see what happens in the state over the couple of weeks,” Schlenk tells ESPN. Georgia relaxed stay-at-home policies.
The Los Angeles Lakers have returned approximately $4.6 million that they received from a federal government program intended to help small businesses weather the economic burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the team said in a statement to ESPN on Monday. The Lakers, one of the NBA's most profitable franchises, applied for relief through the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, and were among the companies and nonprofits granted loans during the first round of distributions. But after reports that several large or highly capitalized entities were securing aid from the program's initial $349 billion pool -- while hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses were shut out -- the Lakers said they returned the money. "The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program," the Lakers said in a statement to ESPN. "Once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need. The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community."
The Nets’ facility in Brooklyn and the Knicks’ campus in Tarrytown are supposed to be shut down under the state’s order. A person familiar with the NBA situation said plans are still fluid, but players on teams located in COVID-19 hot spots such as the Nets and Knicks would be helped out if May 1 becomes the day for opening league facilities. At the facilities that do open around the league, players can participate only in individual workouts — and not group sessions — the person said.
The Wolves are preparing right along with them, trying to be ready should the green light come. But they also remain in a period of mourning, for Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother, Jacqueline, and for a relative in Malik Beasley’s family, both of whom have been lost to complications from coronavirus. What has made matters worse for the Wolves is that the shelter-in-place orders enacted to try to limit the spread of the virus are also limiting their ability to connect with members of the organization that are hurting. “Anytime you lose somebody, especially somebody as important as a parent, you want to be there for them and you want to support them,” president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “We’ve tried really hard, anything and everything that we can to connect with Karl and his family and other players and other staff members that are going through it. But it’s not the same. You can’t hug somebody, you can’t spend one-on-one time with them. You can’t help them through this pain in a physical, personal way.”
For Beasley, it all starts with safety. If the players, coaches and fans aren’t healthy and are at risk of contracting a virus that has killed more than 50,000 in the United States and a couple in the Timberwolves family, the discussion should stop right there. “I just want to make sure our health is fine and make sure we’re good to go,” Beasley said. “That’s what we got to do, got to make sure we’re healthy.”
Whether it happens sooner or later, the Wolves will be ready when the day comes to get back on the court. But the preparation will continue with heavy hearts from losses that have underscored just how real this threat is. “We’ve done everything that we can to stay connected, to stay engaged, to provide resources, to provide support,” Rosas said. “But it’s painful. It’s frustrating and it’s disappointing. You just want to grab KAT and give him a hug and let him know we’re here with him. I’d love for our 15 guys and our coaching staff and our front office to be together through this. But it’s where we’re at in this point in time. Whether it’s calls, texts chapel services, we’ve continued to support him and his family as best as we can.”
When the NBA suspended the season, the question for the Cleveland Cavaliers was not whether they would pay the hundreds of game-day workers at their arena but how. Regardless of who was actually signing the paychecks for those workers. A USA TODAY Sports survey of all Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL teams found substantial discrepancies in how they are providing financial assistance to tens of thousands of game-day workers, particularly those employed by third-party vendors. Out of the 91 teams surveyed, the Cavaliers were one of just 29 that said they were paying workers who are employed by outside entities like food and beverage conglomerates, and aren’t directly on the team or venue's payroll.
A USA TODAY Sports survey found substantial discrepancies in how tens of thousands of game-day workers are receiving financial assistance from pro teams – and widespread reticence from those teams to disclose details of the plans they have publicly touted. USA TODAY Sports asked all 91 teams in the NBA, NHL and MLB to provide details of their assistance plans, and 32 responded with figures for how many employees were covered and what the program costs. Of that number, 28 also provided specific details about how the money is being disbursed. The plans varied in structure, size and the amount of money made available for workers, with financial commitments ranging from "more than $400,000" to $7 million.
The NBA reportedly will allow teams to open facilities in areas where coronavirus-related social distance restrictions have been eased, but the Golden State Warriors' facilities will remain closed as long as the City of San Francisco keeps its ordinances in place, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday.
The Warriors -- who haven't played a game since March 10 -- will continue to adhere to the guidelines set by San Francisco Mayor London Breed and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Breed was among the first city leaders to enact social-distancing measures, banning all non-essential travel on March 16, despite San Francisco not having any known coronavirus cases at the time. Three days later, Newsom followed suit, enacting social-distance laws statewide. On Friday, Breed said she'd "very likely" extend the measure in San Francisco past the current May 3 date.
Payton said he has donated 10,000 masks to New Orleans medical facilities. “I just tried to help out by giving masks,’’ Payton said. “To the people that’s on the front lines and in the doctor’s office. It’s scary what this thing is doing to people around the world. For them to be there and risk their lives and take care of these people, I think it was important to reach out and help them. And the best way I thought to do that was the mask.”
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